Friday, October 26, 2012

Dyeing Your Wool With Kool-Aid!

When I first started working with wool, I used to experiment using Kool-Aid to dye my wool to get the colors that I needed.  I use Cushings Professional Dyes for all of my wool now but if I happen to run out, I know I can use Kool-Aid in a pinch.

I've been asked so many times for help with dyeing this way, I think it's about time that I wrote about my own experiment results.

There are good things and bad things about dyeing wool with Kool-Aid.  The good thing is that it's much safer to use if you have children around.  The smell is MUCH nicer too!  When using professional dyes, extreme care must be used when mixing the powders. Those tiny particles, if breathed in, can be harmful to your lungs. I don't ever dye wool when my grandson is visiting ... I just don't want to take any chances with his lungs.  Even when dyeing with Kool-Aid, careful mixing is important so that the powder particles don't become airborne. Even with the extreme care that I use, I still find dye particles on my microwave, which is above my stove.

The only 2  bad things about dyeing with Kool-Aid is that the colors come out extremely bright and it can become expensive if you dye a lot of wool this way.  The packs are usually around .22 cents each but if you have to use 10-15 packs to dye a fat quarter of wool, that gets expensive.  If you watch for sales, the price becomes more reasonable.  As for the brightness of the dyed wool...I'm going to show you how to turn those brights into really rich deep and dirty shades....using COFFEE!
So to start....
I have dye pots that I use just for dyeing wool.  Find an old pot to use for that you don't use for everyday cooking.  I've added lukewarm water.  The amount of water depends on the amount of wool you're dyeing. It should be enough to allow the wool to move freely around.  Since I'm dyeing just a small sample size, I have about 4 cups of water.

I'm pouring the unsweetened (it's important that it's UNSWEETENED Kool-Aid) orange Kool-aid into the pot of lukewarm water.  It's important that the Kool-aid is added before the water is steaming hot.  The steam catches those powder particles and carries them off to land on every surface above your stove, including your lungs.  I know this because my microwave, which is right above my stove, told me.

 Stir the Kool-Aid thoroughly, making sure that all the powder is completely dissolved off the sides of the pot and in the water.  This is important because the smallest undisolved particle will show up on your wool as a really dark spot.
 Meanwhile, while I am getting the pot ready, I've been soaking my wool in some hot water with a little bit of shampoo. You can use dishsoap instead, I prefer to use shampoo.  The soap helps soften the wool fibers so that it will take up the dye better.
 Once the Kool-Aid water is hot and almost boiling, I add in the wool.
 I turn the temp down to simmer.  I don't need to boil this.  I'll simmer the wool for oh...about 15-20 min or so but it depends on how much dye is being used and how much wool is being dyed.  Since I'm just doing a small scrap, it doesn't take more than 10 min or so for all the dye to be taken into the wool.
Stir often so that the dye will be taken in evenly.  If you prefer a more mottled look, then keep the wool bunched up and don't stir as often.
 The nice thing about the white enamel pots is that you can actually see the dye colors. As the dye seeps into the wool, the water will turn clearer.. When the water is clear, that's when you know that it's almost done. The longer you simmer the wool, the better the dye will set. The water is clear and this has been simmering for about 15 min.
 This is the color's very bright!  Make sure to rinse it thoroughly with cold water.  This helps to set the dye and also get most of the fruity smell out too.
Now, I'll show you how to experiment with COFFEE to make the Kool-Aid colors a better, more useable shade.
Instead of water, I use coffee!  Regular brewed coffee is fine. 

Since the coffee that I'm using is steamy hot, I'm mixing the kool-aid in a separate bowl, using a little bit of warm water. Safety first!

I've added the mixed Kool-Aid into the coffee and stirred it well.  Don't let the dark color scare you ... you'll see, it will be fine!

I've added my wool and cooked it exactly the same way that I did previously.  The only difference is that most times the water won't turn clear .. it depends on the coffee/Kool-aid ratio as to how much coffee color remains.  It's also really important to simmer this for at least 20-30 minutes so that the coffee will set permanently into the wool.  Otherwise, when you rinse, the coffee will rinse out and you'll have wasted your time.

This shows you the difference between dyeing with Kool-Aid and plain water compared to dyeing with Kool-Aid and coffee.
The coffee dyed wool has really nice deep tones.  Depending on how much coffee to Kool-aid you mix will depend on how or how light the color is. 

So give Kool-Aid a try! 
 Experiment  with Kool-Aid to get the colors you want.  I've done it with Lemonade and Black-Cherry too.  I've tried the Lemon-Lime and the Grape too but  I personally prefer the results of the orange, lemonade and black cherry colors the best.

Have Fun and Happy Day!


Happy Valley Primitives said...

Thank you SO much for the great tutorial! This is actually something I've been wanting to try, and your very thorough explanation is much appreciated!


Paula said...

Thanks for the wonderful tutorial. I do have one question... When you remove the wool from the hot water with shampoo do you rinse it out and then squeeze out the water before you add it to the pot with the dye?
Thanks Paula

Friendship Crossing said...

Thanks so much for a great tutorial! Wow! I love the way you explain things to make more sense! I have always wanted to give this a try and now I will know how to do it.